How To Deal With Overwhelm And Take Action
4 Reasons Why We Feel Overwhelmed
Ever feel overwhelmed and not sure how to deal with it?
You’re not alone. We’ve all been there…
While there are a lot of different reasons why we can feel overwhelmed, here are four main reasons that I see causes people to feel overwhelmed:
1. GETTING STUCK IN A RUT
When we get stuck in a rut or a loop, we end up thinking the same thoughts over and over again. Often, we attach more meaning to the thoughts than needed. For example, if a friend doesn’t call us for a while, we think that they don’t care about us whereas they might just be busy.
2. SAYING “YES” WHEN YOU WANT TO SAY “NO”
If you’re like me, you may struggle with wanting to please people. You’re kind-hearted so you end up saying “yes” to make everyone happy you realize you’ve taken on more than you can. But because you don’t want to disappoint anyone, you try to do it anyway, which causes you to feel overwhelmed.
3. A LONG TO-DO LIST INSTEAD OF PRIORITIES
Sometimes this happens to me in business, where I keep adding to the priorities I’ve set out so they shift into a long to-do list. When this happens, I feel overwhelmed because I no longer have priorities and don’t know where to start.
4. STRUGGLING WITH INFORMATION OVERLOAD
We live in the Information Age and on one hand, you can find almost any information you need if you look hard enough. But the challenge is that there’s a lot to sift through and it can be overwhelming.
What’s Happening In Our Brains When We Feel Overwhelmed?
When we feel overwhelmed, the back part of our brain, which is the amygdala or the emotional part, floods and overrides the front part of our brain, which is the frontal cortex or the thinking brain.
Now, our amygdala is meant to protect us and this fight or flight response has helped us survive for thousands of years. For example, when you see something big and scary with teeth (like a bear), your brain screams “RUN!!” That reaction can help you to survive…
But our emotional brain isn’t always helpful when we’re feeling overwhelmed because it has no filter.
This means it doesn’t differentiate between a big angry bear and a friend that is causing us to feel overwhelmed.
Say, for example, you send out five work proposals and you get back a “no” from all of them. Then, the next time you sit in front of the computer to write another proposal, you stare blankly at the screen. For one thing, you don’t know why the proposals weren’t accepted. And now, you doubt yourself. Your mind begins circling around thoughts like, “I’m a failure. I can’t do this. How am I going to pay my bills!?”
Our emotional brain is definitely NOT helpful in this kind of a situation.
How To Deal With Overwhelm — A Powerful Strategy
This is a simple but powerful strategy that will help you to cut through the overwhelm and take action.
Journal these three questions:
- What am I thinking?
- What am I feeling?
- What do I want?
Validating Your Thoughts And Feelings
When we answer the first two questions, it validates how we’re thinking and feeling and also helps us to begin processing our thoughts and feelings.
It gives us a snapshot of where we are right now.
This process is important because if we’re stuck in a loop or a rut, it feels painful because we don’t know how to get unstuck. We feel immobilized, caught in a fight or flight response, instead of being able to problem solve our way out.
This pain demands to be expressed and journalling is a constructive way to express that pain.
The Power Of Answering “What Do I Want?”
The third question, “what do I want” is so effective because it’s a complex question, so it takes us out of the emotional brain and into our thinking brain. Authors Switzler, Grenny and McMillan explain it this way in their book Crucial Conversations:
It “juices up our brain in a way that helps us to keep focused.”
Our thinking brain is where we solve problems, make decisions and make judgments. It also allows us to consciously choose our way forward and helps us to look at the bigger picture instead of merely reacting in the moment.
By making a conscious choice about how to move forward, we can intentionally choose actions that align with our core values. For instance, if your core value is…
- “I’m a kind person” then you can choose to treat the difficult client with compassion instead of reacting angrily
- “I want a connection with my adult kids” then you can choose to have the pivotal conversation about boundaries to improve the relationship instead of ignoring the problem
- “I’m doing work that matters for people who care” then you can choose to persevere and send out more proposals even when you receive “no’s” from other proposals you sent out
Why This Simple Yet Powerful Strategy Works
This strategy is (almost) deceptively simple. So simple that you might dismiss it. But it gets results because it helps you to change your behaviour.
It also helps you to take action in a way that you’re happy with tomorrow so you won’t be looking back with regret.
Here’s what happens when you use this strategy:
- You’ll like yourself better – because you’re behaving in a way that lines up with our core values
- You’ll feel better about yourself – because we’re like and even love who we are
- You’ll feel more confident – because we’re living with greater self-control
- You’ll have better relationships – because we’re responding instead of reacting
- You’ll feel more powerful – because we know where to give and take
When you begin to form the habit of behaving in this way, you’ll become more consistent in acting out of your core values.
I encourage you to try this strategy with an open mind and experiment with it. See for yourself if you get the results you want!
Challenge: Try this powerful strategy for 7 days and share your results below! We love to hear from you.
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